It were well-guarded, but by our friends. I ran in with the lords and gentlemen coming from the boats.
There was great commotions, so I sought shelter ’neath a table in the hall.
And was mazed to be assailed by scents of cloves and cinnamon.
Onix. I was not joyed to see him.
Then I nosed something more. I sayt, “Who gave you leave to make water in this house?”
“I could not hold it in,” sayt Onix, humble. “I’ve been imprisoned here all day.”
Then he told what befell him.
He’d slipped out of his house before ’twas light, meaning to keep watch at Essex House unseen. What goings and comings there’d been.
Onix sayt Essex hisself had gone early to the citie, and returned.
“That cannot be true,” sayt I, but he swore it were. And he’d seen Lady Rich (she that I call Pretty Penny) come to the house with some gentlemen.
When it turned light he meant to go, but – being curious – crept along the garden wall to the street.
He’d not sat there long before he saw some venerable gentlemen seeking entry to Essex House in the name of the Queen.
“Then,” whispered Onix, “I done a fool thing.”
Wishing to learn more, and thinking what a good report he could bring me and Linkin, he sprang down from where he sat and concealed hisself by a little gate.
Then that little gate was oped to admit the Queen’s gentlemen!
Caught betwixt the gate and their feet, Onix had no choice but to run the onlie way he could. Through the gate. Fearing at everie moment to be kicked or tramped on.
“Sure, their dignitie saved you,” sayt I. “The Queen’s old men would not wish to be seen to do no more at Essex House than kick a cat.”
“But what a hell I was in!” cried Onix. “The court [courtyard] were throng. Then came Lord Essex with your Earl and another lord.
“The chief old gentleman told Lord Essex they were sent to know the cause of so great an assembly at his house.
“Lord Essex sayt there was a plot laid against his life, and that false letters were writ under his name. They were met to defend theirselves and save their lives.
“Another of the old gentlemen sayt that if Lord Essex told him plain what had been attempted, he would report it truly to the Queen, and Lord Essex would be justly and lawfully heard.
“Your Earl spake of Lord Grey’s assalt on him. The second old gentleman sayt that Lord Grey was imprisoned for it.
“And all the while Lord Essex’s friends were calling that time was passing, and they should make haste away.
“The chief old gentleman bristled up, and commanded them to lay down their arms.
“None heeded him. There came wicked calls of, Hang them! Lock them up!
“The Lord Essex took the old gentlemen into his house for their safety. And I – running under the hem of one’s gown to pass as a fur trim – went too.
“The gentlemen were led up the stairs. Lord Essex sayt they must have patience for a while. He was going to the citie to meet the Lord Mayor and the Sheriffs, and would soon return.
“Then he and all quit the house and went into the street,” sayt Onix.
I sayt, “I followed them through the citie. They came too late to find the Lord Mayor at Paws [St Pauls]. There was none willing to aid them.”
Then I arrkst, “Where are the Queen’s old men now?”
“A gentleman came here not long since, and went away with them. They was joyed to go, but I durst not follow. This is the worstest day of my life.”
It promised to be the best of mine.
“Courage, friend,” sayt I. “When next you have a chance to flee, do so. There’s now no hope for us. But I’m sworn to live or die in the service of Essex and my Earl, and will face our foes heroick.”
Poor Onix, caught up among four venerable gentlemen. The Lord Keeper and the Lord Chief Justice were two; the others were the Earl of Worcester and Sir William Knollys, who was Comptroller of the Queen’s Household and also Essex’s and Penelope Rich’s uncle.
None was regarded by Essex as an enemy. At least two (Sir Thomas Egerton and Sir William Knollys) may still have been well-disposed towards him. Unfortunately, they spent much longer under guard in Essex House than expected, though Lady Essex and Penelope Rich kept them company.
The man who arrived at Essex House just ahead of Tricks and Essex himself was Sir Ferdinando Gorges, who’d been in the city with Essex. A cousin of Essex’s arch-enemy Sir Walter Ralegh, he had a foot in each camp. Sir Ferdinando ordered the release of the officials and returned to Whitehall with them. Essex must have been shattered to find them – hostages or last hope – gone.